First published in the Nov. 26 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The City Council continues to promote community involvement as it proceeds through its election redistricting planning, with draft maps due in February and the final decision required in April.
The redistricting process, spurred by the 2020 census results, began in September. The council’s meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 17, was the first of four public hearings required by law. The goal of such meetings is to identify communities of interest with the help of public input, in an effort to avoid incidentally dividing those communities when determining new district boundaries.
“I’m looking forward to public comment because I really want to hear what people are thinking,” said Councilman Jon Primuth. “I think everything is on the table, as far as I’m concerned. This is the time when we can look at fresh data and take a deliberate approach.”
Every 10 years, the city uses new census data to review district lines and redraw them, if necessary, to account for any population or demographic shifts.
Under federal law, districts need to have roughly equal population and can’t discriminate based on protective classification. Under state law, districts must be geographically contiguous and compact, the geographic integrity of neighborhoods should be maintained and district lines are to be easily identifiable.
“It seems simple on its face, but I don’t want to underestimate the weight and the importance of what this is,” Ken Chawkins, consultant for the National Demographics Corporation, told the council. “It’s really important to hear the voices of the community through you and around the process so we and you get it right. Because it lasts, as you know, for 10 years.”
The City Council presently uses geographic political districts; meanwhile, the South Pasadena Unified School District is now transitioning to such a model and is conducting its own outreach and work.
In addition to the public hearing at the Nov. 17 meeting, city officials have conducted outreach through social media, phone and email.
There are multiple ways for residents to help define communities of interest in South Pasadena and help contribute to the redistricting process. Chawkins urges residents to consider how they would define their community.
Residents can draw a map using their own method or use one of the map-drawing tools at southpasadenaca.gov/redistricting. Comments and questions can also be sent via email to email@example.com or by phone to (626) 403-7230.
“This is the foundational element of democracy,” Chawkins said. “You are drawing the lines that will allow people to represent the people.”
South Pasadena will hold its next public hearing for redistricting on Jan. 19. The deadline to submit draft maps is Feb. 19, and the final redistricting deadline is April 17.
Housing Element Reviewed
The council also reviewed the latest updates to the Public Review Draft Housing Element last week, paying particular attention to how very low- to moderate-income units will be added.
Seventy-two percent of new units included in the housing element are required to be affordable for very low, low or moderate incomes. City staff identified vacant parcels and areas for accessory dwelling units, but still fell short of the lower income requirement.
Sites on non-residential land outside of downtown are being examined as possible space for housing and property owners have also been contacted to see if there is interest to use properties for housing. Roughly 29.5 acres in South Pas are proposed to be rezoned to accommodate the lower-income categories.
The Housing Element, which is required to be updated every eight years to account for Regional Housing Needs Assessment updates, is not a building mandate, but rather a document attesting to state officials that, in theory, a certain number of homes could be constructed under current city zoning codes.
South Pasadena awaits comments from the State Department of Housing and Community Development, which will be received by Dec. 21, before creating a revised draft for the general plan.